By Niki Turner
One of my fondest Christmas memories was the year my family made the trek over the Continental Divide to Denver to see the Colorado Ballet perform The Nutcracker.
As a budding ballerina (at that time I was just a few years away from going en pointe) it was a magical experience. When I saw that Jennifer AlLee's Christmas Traditions novella was titled Nutcracker Christmas I was instantly intrigued. Today I am honored to introduce Jen's latest release here at Inkwell!
Pour yourself a few fingers of eggnog (or just add a dollop to your coffee... it's surprisingly effective), pull up a tufted cushion, and join us for a conversation with Jen about Nutcracker Christmas, the sixth in the Christmas Traditions series.
Jen, what was your inspiration for this story?
The character of Isabella was inspired by my grandmother, Marie, who was a ballet dancer and actually met my grandfather—a Hungarian violinist—on the road. Isabella was also an integral part of my novel, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, even though the character had passed away at the beginning of the story. I thought this was a perfect way to dig deeper into Isabella's past.
Nutcracker Christmas is set in 1945, which is a relatively recent time period. Do you think it’s easier to write about a more recent time in history, or harder, and why?
For me, it's easier. Everything from the clothes to the way people talked, even though it's specific to the time period, it's not as far removed. Also, I've heard family stories about that time and looked through my grandmother's photo albums, so I have a firmer grasp on the period.
Good point, and what a blessing! The WWII generation—the "Greatest Generation"—is leaving us, and it's important that we save, record, and cherish their stories. Very few of us have had the opportunity to hear those family stories direct from the source. I have my grandmother's photo albums and scrapbooks, but they don't always answer all my questions.
With that said, you address several social issues relevant to the period in Nutcracker Christmas. How do those issues still apply to us today?
One thing is prejudice. This is right after WWII, and because Victor has a Hungarian accent, some people immediately think him to be German, and therefore, the enemy. It's one of those snap judgments that's made before people have all the facts. It's always an issue, because we tend to be predisposed to believe certain things.
As I live in an area where we are inundated with Hispanic immigrants, I understand that tendency to make snap judgments, about people and the importance of listening to what the Lord has to say about our brothers and sisters in Christ.
There's another issue, too, but if I go into it now, it will be a spoiler. Guess folks will have to make up their own minds about that!
Ooh! Always good to give us something to go digging for. I *think* I know what it is, but I'm not going to say anything... God can handle that!
The Nutcracker is a time-honored Christmas tradition for many people, either seeing the ballet live, watching one of the movies, or just listening to the music. What’s one of your favorite Christmas traditions?
I have a Christmas stocking that my mom crocheted when I was about a year old. And she made one for my son when he was born. They've been hung up every year since the day she made them.
Aw! My mother-in-law made stockings for each of her three kids when they were little. The one she made for my hubby has carpenter tools appliqued on it. He grew up to be (after his pastoral role) a carpenter. He's 44 now and she still hangs his stocking every year... makes me weepy.
What Christmas traditions are important to your family, and why?
We're having a giveaway of a Kindle copy of Nutcracker Christmas. Leave your name(dot)email in the comments to enter.
Isabella Brandt lives to dance, but she's spent the last four years in obscurity as part of the corps. Now, she's finally landed a principal role in The Nutcracker. But a handsome Hungarian violinist and a shocking visit from her past may knock this ballerina off her feet and ruin Christmas.
Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Her novels include The Pastor’s Wife, The Mother Road, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, Last Family Standing, and the upcoming Vinnie’s Diner (4/15) from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough, Vanishing Act, and Curtain Call from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; and the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour.